Refugee Thanksgiving

As we all know, America's history is complicated, especially when it comes to its founding. While the truth of the original Thanksgiving is foggy, we do know that the Pilgrims had a complicated relationship with the Native Americans. It’s important to remember the dark parts of America’s founding, it is also important to look at how different people celebrate Thanksgiving, including refugees. 

The Milwaukee Area Refugee Consortium’s Thanksgiving is like any other, except that it’s for refugees. For them, the holiday is not one they are familiar with or one they’ve even participated in. The goal of the Consortium is to welcome refugees to Milwaukee and to the United States. Americans and refugees are all invited to share traditional Thanksgiving dishes with each other. 

Milwaukee’s Refugee Thanksgiving provides a way for Americans and refugees to spend a holiday together and connect with one another. One of the Americans, Mary Flynn, who shared Thanksgiving with refugees said, “This Thanksgiving day is for (the refugees), because they help me understand how special the United States is… that we have a lot of freedom.” She attributes this realization to her interactions with refugees on Refugee Thanksgiving. 

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in Pennsylvania  also hosts an annual Refugee Thanksgiving, but they make sure to explain that their invitations extend to a wide range of individuals with Sharon Samber writing that HIAS invites, “asylees, refugees, asylum seekers, staff, board, volunteers, and local government.”

HIAS’s event includes more than the tastes and traditions of American Thanksgiving. Instead, their rendition of refugee Thanksgiving involves dishes from the United States as well as other cultures. In addition, the holiday celebrates art through dance, music, and art. 

Refugee Thanksgiving is celebrated across the United States. Do a quick search to find where a Refugee Thanksgiving is being held near you. Many of the events have volunteer opportunities or welcome members of the community to celebrate alongside a diverse group of people.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful, but it is also about thinking of and accepting those who are different from you, whether it be because they are refugees or simply different from you. Put yourself in other people's shoes and try to do what you can to make a difference in the lives of others at the local level.